Rooms with a view. The multiple levels of this expansive deck define areas for dining, sitting, and sunning. A large stone planter incorporates color and texture to the deck and further defines the separation of spaces. The cable railing keeps deck visitors safe but doesn’t obstruct the view.
Photo by: Brian Pontolilo
Any outdoor space is better than no outdoor space. Even the kind of deck that we call a “penalty box”—the type you’ve probably seen attached to one side of a house, sometimes on the second floor, with no sun protection and no way to get down to the ground—even that is better than no outdoor space at all. If you’re planning a new deck, though, or if you’ve got a penalty-box deck now and want to improve it, there are some important things to remember.
1. When you think “deck,” think “room”The first thing to think about when you’re designing a deck is what you’re going to use it for so that you can size the space accordingly. Will your deck function as a kitchen, an outdoor living room, an outdoor dining room, or some combination of those options? If you want the new deck to be an outdoor dining room, take a look at your indoor dining room, and see how you can duplicate the dimensions outside. If you’re lucky enough to be able to build a deck with multiple levels, you can place individual functions on each level. Generally, three risers is enough of a change in elevation to separate different levels. Fewer risers than that can be hard to differentiate and also can create a trip hazard. Separate the levels with planters and with built-in benches. They add color and offer a place where you can sit and socialize.
2. Leave some room to move aroundWhile you’re planning the size of your deck, its uses, and the furniture you’ll put on it, remember also to think about how traffic will move across the deck to another destination, whether it’s into the house or into the yard. Don’t put the path between the table and the chairs, or between the grill and the benches. It seems an obvious thing to point out, but we see this problem over and over again. It shouldn’t be an afterthought.